If someone had told me in 2008, the year I last set foot on European soil, that it would be nine years before I visited again, I’m not sure what I would have done. Cry? Scream? Faint? All possibilities. I spent ten weeks there in 2007 and three months in 2008. Two long trips two years in a row. I was on a roll! Or so I thought.

For whatever reason, the past nine years just didn’t afford me a return to this continent that I love. I’ve been fortunate to visit a lot of other places, but Europe has stayed just out of reach.

See, I have a problem. Pretty much every place I’ve ever visited, I have a strong desire to visit again. And yet, my list of new destinations to see is never ending. So what’s a person to do? I still haven’t figured it out. All I know is I never want to stop exploring this world!

For my birthday this year, I wanted to celebrate big with a “destination” birthday trip. 🙂 You would think with so many places I want to visit and re-visit, it would have been an easy decision to nail down somewhere to go. However, you would be incredibly wrong. This was such a difficult decision for me.

My friend, Teresa, finally texted me one day (after I again scrapped a nearly-all-planned-out trip): “Where in this world do you want to be on your actual birthday?” I knew the answer immediately: France.

I’ve had a love affair with France for as long as I can remember and have spent more time in that country than any other (well, other than the U.S. 🙂 ). I love France. I love everything about it. And I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Yes, I had been there before, but there was still so much more of the country I hadn’t explored. So, decision made.

We spent nearly three weeks there staying in Paris, Saint Antonin Noble Val, and Nice. And it was wonderful.

First, Paris.

The City of Lights is like no other. Since I had visited before and seen and done all that every good tourist should see and do, this time I just wanted to be in Paris. And what a perfect city to be in with no plans!

Teresa and I stayed in the Montmartre area in a perfect apartment, with perfect original features, in a perfectly old building, with two perfect balconies, and a perfectly minuscule toilet room.

Our plans for our stay were to have no plans and just enjoy being there. Paris is a most superb city for just strolling. Strolling and discovering. Strolling and eating. Strolling and shopping. Strolling…then sitting. Sitting and observing. Sitting and writing. Sitting and reading. This is what we pretty much did the entire time we were there.

And it was perfect.

We did have one outing planned in advance – well, Teresa had one surprise outing planned in advance as a birthday gift for me – which we thoroughly enjoyed during our first full day in Paris.

She had made arrangements for the two of us to join an Airbnb “experience“. This one was lead by Anne, a local journalist, cookbook editor, writer and chef. We met her and another couple at a boulangerie five minutes from our apartment where she explained that we would be visiting local shops to buy ingredients that we would bring back to her apartment where she would make us traditional ham and butter sandwiches.

Before you turn your nose up at a ham and butter sandwich (like I did), these were no ordinary sandwiches. They were, in fact, the most delicious sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

We started at Panifica, which is a bakery that specializes in sourdough breads, even a sourdough baguette! Anne purchased three different breads there, including the baguette, and then we headed next to Le Bourdonnec.

panifica bakery

At this butchery, we met the owner who is so passionate about this craft, he left his career in advertising to pursue his dream of running a boucherie. Pale pink, thinly sliced “Paris” ham was purchased here.

Next stop was L’Épicerie des Environs, a small, organic grocery store where Anne bought pickles and apple juice and I purchased some local honey and pistou (French version of pesto).

Lastly, we ran inside a local grocery store for some fresh herbs and then it was on to Anne’s house which turned out to be an attraction in itself! Her home is spread over four floors and has a rooftop terrace with an incredible view of Sacré Cœur.

sacre coeur

We hung out on the top floor where the kitchen was contained and sat at the large island to watch Anne prepare her specialty sandwich. She makes a “simple” traditional sandwich to show that anything simple can taste extraordinary just by using quality ingredients. And by giving it your own little twist. 🙂


Her twists were making an herb butter and a “condiment”. The condiment consisted of chopped pickles, chopped hazelnuts, amazing olive oil, and freshly ground pink peppercorns, white peppercorns and coriander. The sandwiches were assembled with the butter, ham and condiment and we brought everything up to the roof to enjoy along with the fresh apple juice and some kouign amanns she bought at the bakery (and some madeleines she had made herself).

ham and butter sandwiches

So. Much. Yum.

This experience ended up being one of the highlights of our time in France. I would definitely do something like this in other cities – or in Paris again! 🙂